Bohol fisherfolk are first beneficiaries of Philippines’ ‘Super Wi-Fi’ tech

From left: DA-BFAR Regional Director Andres Bojos, DOST-ICT Office Executive Director Louis Casambre, Microsoft Philippines' Karrie Ilagan, the Ecosystem Improved For Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project's Chief-of-Party Geronimo Silvestre, and USAID's Regional Legal Adviser Randy Ali sign the Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the TV White Space technology in Bohol.

MANILA, Philippines — Fisherfolk located in several municipalities in Bohol will be the first to experience a new wireless broadband technology being developed by the government that aims to bring Internet connectivity to far-flung regions of the country.

Five municipalities located in what is known as the Danajon Reef Marine Key Biodiversity Area in Bohol will be the first recipients of TV White Space broadband technology being further developed by the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO). These municipalities include Talibon, Trinidad, Bien Unido, Ubay, and Carlos P. Garcia.

TV White Space is an emerging broadband technology that utilizes unused spectrum previously allocated for television use. Loosely called “Super Wi-Fi,” the technology has the ability to deliver bandwidth to unserved areas in the country with maximum reach at just a fraction of the cost of traditional cellular technology.

The first implementation of the technology will be used by fisherfolk in Bohol to facilitate registration and transmit relevant data to the Department of Agriculture, which the ICTO claims will better target the government’s economic assistance to fisheries in order to “produce more fish, to feed more people, and generate more jobs.”

“This partnership will help the Philippine Government to identify and implement targeted programs for fisherfolk communities based on the information that they will provide,” explained Louis Napoleon Casambre, executive director of the ICTO. “We are glad that USAID and Microsoft Philippines are working with us to use this technology to further enhance the delivery of public services.”

The initiative will allow local government units to access the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) Fisherfolk Registration System (FRS) directly from the field, eliminating the tedious process of completing the forms on paper and encoding the entries back at the municipal hall, which will enable municipalities to immediately distribute necessary IDs, certificates and licenses to fisherfolk especially in remote areas.

In addition, field operatives from the Philippine National Police, Bantay Dagat, and BFAR can immediately access and connect to a central database to monitor gear and vessel compliance of fishermen in the area.

But aside from this, the TV White Space technology will also be used to provide Internet access to nearby municipalities, where public clinics, schools, and barangay halls can be transformed into e-Knowledge hubs, among other purposes.

The partnership intends to yield increased “registrants from hard-to-reach areas in the Danajon Reef area,” said BFAR-7 Director Andres Bojos, “and give a much-needed focus to the plight of small scale, subsistence fisherfolk as primary beneficiaries of the government’s poverty alleviation programs.”

As part of the partnership, Microsoft Philippines will be providing Windows 8-powered tablets to aid the mobility needs during registration. “The TV White Space technology is an example of how untapped resources such as unused television channels can be leveraged to empower people’s lives like our fisherfolk with a better and convenient registration system,” said Microsoft Philippines Managing Director Karrie Ilagan.

The technology trial of TV White Space-supported fisherfolk registration is targeted for full implementation in September of this year, ICTO said. Results will be gathered and considered for potential expansion on 2014.

Announced early this year, the ICTO’s TV White Space initiative is a pioneering effort in seeking to connect the remaining 70 percent of the population to the Internet, which is seen to have significant impact on the country’s future economic progress.

With increased penetration in rural areas, the Super Wi-Fi technology can jumpstart economic development by giving access to e-Commerce, e-Learning, and e-Government tools to rural folk, subsequently increasing their incomes and pushing the economic status upwards in the countryside.

According to a 2009 study by the World Bank, a 10-percent increase in a country’s broadband penetration leads to as much as a 1-percent growth in the country’s gross domestic product.